Harvest Guilt

On my way home from work today I passed through the center of Northampton. For once I didn’t notice the reading on the Silverscape sign: -90. I’m not sure if it’s Fahrenheit or Celsius. I’m hoping Fahrenheit because that’s a lot warmer – at -90 celsius carbon dioxide freezes – that’d be uncomfortable for the breathing.

Instead I saw a woman and her toddler huddled in the doorway of the former Spoleto’s. The volume and condition of her baggage suggested that she and he spent a good time on the street. He was refusing some food item that she wished to feed him, but she didn’t seem to upset or rushed. At least they had something to eat.

When I returned home I found that my boiler had stopped functioning (it needed to be reset), my son didn’t want to do his homework, the kitchen was dirty, one of the cats hadn’t come home, some other kid had called my kid a nasty name (necessitating phone calls and texts), and about 50 of my students had tweeted me questions about homework, quizzes, tests or the weather. These concerns took over for a few hours.

Then bedtime for the boarders and while the gentle susurration of the dishwasher begged me to head to bed rather than the computer I sat down to answer the tweets, and the woman and child in the Spoletto’s doorway returned to my mind. Perhaps I was mistaken maybe she had a home to go to, but there are certainly many who don’t; perhaps not so many in our city, but way more than is right. I had become upset about homework in a warm house with a full belly.

So I felt guilty. What else?

A colleague of mine says this is the hardest time in gardening because she just feels guilty. So much is ready to be harvested or put up and yet for many of us this is one of our busiest times. I woke up Sunday morning to a mountain of tomatoes waiting to be ground up and processed, but had to write two quizzes, a test, a few lectures, answer a million tweets while keeping an eye on the boarders.

My garden is getting old and the leaves are starting to brown, but I still have cucumbers, peppers and chard. Boy do I have chard. If I don’t eat it, it will eventually freeze then rot. Every year some goes to waste.

We live in a world of such overabundance that many of us have arable land we don’t even use. We have so much food to offer that one of the boarders could refuse to eat dinner tonight. I hardly know what to do with the feeling, but guilt doesn’t help. I’ll try to be thankful that we will have good tomato sauce and that at least that woman in the doorway had something to eat for her boy.

Author: Caleb Rounds

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